Nanaimo’s new fire hall to the rescue, due for completion in 2022

Nanaimo’s fire chief is aiming for a summer groundbreaking for the city’s new main fire hall and post-disaster emergency services centre, now that the project has gone to tender.

The three-storey building, with a red, black, white and gold exterior, will stand at the corner of Milton and Fitzwilliam streets. It’s scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2022.

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In 2018, Nanaimo voters approved borrowing up to $17 million for the 23,000-square-foot building. While the construction budget is $12 million, other costs include reports from consultants on topics ranging from geological conditions to traffic impact, plus fees for architects and permits.

Tenders must be submitted by 3 p.m. on April 28.

The old fire hall was built in the mid-1960s, and is not expected to withstand a major earthquake, despite upgrades. The aging building’s roof and ventilation system, as well as boiler and electrical systems, were also deemed problematic.

Chief Karen Fry said she is looking forward to all fire department services and operations being in one building — firefighters, the fire dispatch centre, the inspection and investigation branch, and administration. Administrative staff now work across the street.

The new building will also be seismically up-to-date, and will feature a separate decontamination room with showers to mitigate any exposure to carcinogens, Fry said. Firefighters will be able to enter the room directly from outside the building and clean themselves and their gear.

“It’s one of the new features that a lot of new stations are doing,” Fry said.

Another plus is that fire operations will be on one level, giving firefighters direct lines to the trucks, she said. “That’s going to really work on cutting down their response time,” she said. “We are hoping to reduce injuries from poles, tripping hazards.”

Nanaimo’s fire department employs 106 staff, including 85 firefighters. The main fire hall is the busiest hall of the four in the city, Fry said. The existing fire hall will remain in use until the new building opens, at which point it will be dismantled.

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